Many writers are often confused over when they should get a website. They hear from industry professionals telling them to set up a website right away, sometimes even if you don’t have a book available. This advice leads to writers asking, “Why do I need to pay for an author website if I don’t have any books to sell?” I was asked this question recently and my answer is this:
Well, you don’t.
If you don’t have a book that’ll be released in one year, or 3-6 months, you don’t need a website. Yet. But if you will have a release that’ll be coming out in a year or less, that is the perfect time to set up a website and start building buzz around your book.
Here are six things you can do in the meantime:
1. Get to Blogging
Blogs and author websites are different. A blog is a place to post daily, weekly, or monthly about your life, to share your journey, and talk about things you are passionate about. An author website is a place for readers and the media to go to for information about you, your books, your upcoming events, and services you may offer. A website could have a blog integrated into it or linked to it, though, as I have my blog linked as a page on my author website.
Many writers start out with a blog. I did. And the writer who asked me why she needs to pay for an author website also has a blog.
A blog is a great way to connect to readers and writers before you’re published. You can share your editing woes, talk about the steps you’re taking to get published, and share interesting tidbits about your current work-in-progress, especially if it’s a book you plan to publish sometime in the future. The blogging world has a wonderful community. Join blog hops, visit other bloggers, follow them, and comment on their posts.
Join one or all of these blog hops:
– The Insecure Writer’s Support Group does once-a-month blog hop (on the first Wednesday). Connect to writers and authors and share your insecurities or advice.
– Write…Edit…Publish (WEP) blog hop. Every 2-3 months, this blog hop becomes active with writers sharing stories or poems based on the theme for that month.
– Celebrate the Small Things happens every Friday where bloggers share what they are celebrating from that week.
There are so many more recurring blog hops. Keep an eye out for them. And if someone comments on your post, return a comment back. That’s good blogging etiquette.
You can also add things to your blog to make it more informational.
Pages to Add:
About Me/Bio – Even if you don’t have an author’s bio yet, you can put interesting content here for visitors. Explain what you plan to do with your blog, list your interests and hobbies, mention what you do for work, what you write, and share your journey so far as a writer.
Contact – List all the ways you are comfortable with people contacting you. You can also list your social media profiles here.
Guests – Perhaps you want to host authors for guest posts, interviews, or book spotlights. I did this when I was waiting for Hurricane Crimes to be published by The Wild Rose Press. I put an announcement out there where all TWRP authors could see it and soon had 20 guests. This is a great way to build relationships with other authors who can return the favor one day and host you on their blog.
After you publish a book or two, you may decide to use your blog as your author website. That is a great option! But be aware of your blog’s URL. A clever “bloggy” title in your URL may confuse readers and visitors. Instead, setting your author name as your blog’s URL would be a good idea to show readers you’re using that blog as your author website. It’ll also be easier to remember. Eventually, you can pay for a domain name through your blog host, so you can drop the host’s name from your blog’s URL.
See? You can blog before you publish. Even years before. And you then you can turn your blog into your author website when you need one. It’s all up to you.
2. Sign Up for Linkedin
This is a different sort of social media platform than Twitter and Facebook. Here, you can connect with authors, publishers, editors, agents, illustrators, and anyone else in the writing/publishing world. Set up your profile: share your achievements (no matter how small), any volunteer work you do, awards you’ve won, and degrees you’ve earned.
Once your profile is done, look for connections you know. Then get creative. Is there a publishing company or agency you dream of joining one day as an author? Go to the profile for that company, click “employees,” and send out as many connection requests as you want. I did this and sent requests to the people in marketing, editors, and authors. Don’t feel weird about doing this; this is networking!
Don’t forget to post here, too. I’d avoid posting memes or rants, the sort of things you may post on Facebook, and keep it professional. Did you publish a new blog post? Share it here. Did you win a writing contest? Brag about it! Did your flash fiction piece or poem get published online? Post a link to it. Anything related to your writing, anything you want other writers to know, can be shared here.
3. Join Writing Groups
Go to the reference desk at your local libraries and ask if a writer’s group gets together there. Usually, they meet once a month and new members are always welcome. When you join writing groups, you get to build relationships with local writers/authors, ask for advice, find critique partners, and more. When you’re published, you can do local promotions with the other authors in your groups. How about a signing with two or more of you? You’ll bring your readers and they’ll bring theirs. If it turns out to be a bust, you won’t be alone.
A writing group can offer you so much.
4. Twitter Chats
I don’t suggest joining social media if you hate it or don’t have the time for it, but if you are on Twitter, there are some chats you can join to build your followers and connect to other writers/authors.
#1LineWed This chat happens every Wednesday and is specifically for writers and their current work-in-progress. Share a line from your WIP with this hashtag for the theme for that Wednesday. The theme is always shared before the big day, so go to the hashtag to find out what it is. You can even post several tweets that day if you have more than one great line from your WIP for that theme. Don’t forget to retweet or favorite other writers’ tweets. Show them some love!
#StoryDam is an online writing community that chats every Thursday at 8 pm ET. Check out the StoryDam website for more info. Every Thursday, there are questions you can answer about your own writing process and books. You could share your insight on a certain subject or learn something new. Most of all, you’ll be getting to know others, so reply to other writers’ tweets for this hop, start conversations, and have fun.
Again, there are many Twitter chats out there. Ask your favorite writers on Twitter if they know of a chat they recommend you join.
I enjoy Instagram a lot because I love photography. You’ll need a smartphone and the Instagram app to join the photo fun. Once you do, you can share photos that show your writing life with appropriate hashtags, such as: #writersofinstagram, #writinglife #writerslife, or #amwriting.
If you’re a book lover, take pictures of the current book you’re reading and add these hashtags: #Booknerdigans, #Bookstagram, #igreads, #Bibliophile.
There are also monthly Instagram challenges for writers, authors, and book lovers that can help you to connect to people with your same interests. These challenges can also result in a lot of likes for your photos and new followers. Make sure to do your part, though, by checking out the hashtag’s feed to see other Instagrammers’ posts. Interact with the participants by liking and/or commenting on their posts. And if someone’s page intrigues you, follow them.
These challenges are a lot of fun. Keep an eye out for photos that list a month’s photo challenge or search the tag #bookstagrammonthly for upcoming/current challenges.
Litsy is an app that is like the love child between Instagram and Goodreads, but so much more engaging than both those sites. On Litsy, you can post pictures of the books you are reading, as well as quotes and reviews.
The great thing about Litsy is that the people there are much more likely to follow you back, so look at who follows your friends and follow them, too. The more people who follow you, the greater of a chance your posts will be seen.
After you have followers, build connections posting your own content, liking and commenting on their posts, and joining a book swap. Swaps are a lot of fun to follow, and you can befriend everyone who is participating by going to the hashtag’s feed and seeing who’s posted under it.
When you publish a book, you can do light promotions on Litsy. “Light” is the keyword there. Make the posts interesting and infrequent. Your Litten followers will see them. The first time I attempted this, within the first few minutes, I got a book sale from a Litten I know. Just make sure that you do more posting as a Litten than as an author. Once a week is good enough when it comes to posting about one of your own books.
There are many ways you can build a community and get your name out there before you have books to sell and need to set up an author website. All of the techniques here will result in connections with writers/authors and protentional readers, one way or another. Try one or two of the items above if they sound like fun to you, and manageable. Blogging is one that definitely requires commitment and time, even if you post just once a week.
More than anything, have fun! After you publish, that’s when the real work begins.